Mary Kay Seminar and Cults

Written by The Scribbler

Every time I review a Mary Kay training document covering the do’s, don’ts, and you-darned-well-better’s of Seminar, I have to go draw a hot bath and pop two 800mg ibuprofen.  Most of the Seminar guidance put forth by Mary Kay’s leaders reads like Bible prose:  “Yea, and all consultants shall appear in Dallas beskirted – yea, those that appear in pantaloons shall be made to drink of the bitter waters and shut out of the camp, unless she bringeth an unblemished calf to Mary Kay Ash’s office for a jealousy offering, Selah.”  

A classic Seminar how-to document says things that are sure to make your brain rub its gray-mattered chin and ponder, “You know, some of the points sound suspiciously like writer Bob Larson’s cult identification guidelines!”  So if you’re wondering why I’ve called you here today, it’s to show you a few similarities between the Mary Kay  and Larson schools of thought.  Ready? 

“Do not try to combine this with a family vacation.  If…you all come early and your family leaves [before Seminar begins], that would be fine.  To attempt to room with your children and entertain them is simply too much…”

I have to admit, I can’t imagine anyone dragging their family to Seminar, especially if Disney World was the second-place contender.  To give credit where it’s due, though, Seminar is insanely kid-friendly, complete with parades, music, dancing, and awkward interactions with gaudily-dressed characters!  Don’t look now, but here comes LiverLips McGrowl from the Country Bear Jamboree!  Oh, wait…that’s NSD Botox-Restylane…my bad.

Many NSDs encourage Seminar attendees to “fly solo.”  One NSD takes the idea several bolded-and-underlined fonts further in her “Conference and Event Ettiquette” document:

“If the EVENT IS IN YOUR CITY, STILL stay in a Company hotel. Driving back and forth from your home keeps you ½ in the Conference and ½ in your home life and responsibility. There is NO WAY you can have an effective ‘thought shift’ or FULL Experience that way.”

Shoot, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that these leaders were promoting isolation from the outside, in which “a diminished perception of reality results when one is physically separated from friends.”   How else to explain the strange logic of “Even if your house is three “Yee-haws!” away from the Dallas Convention Center, you should turn your powdered nose up at free home-cooked meals and a familiar bed in favor of paying for meals of rubber chicken and a game of Roomie Roulette, in which you learn which Mary Kay stranger you’ll be spooning with for the next three days.”  Will your bed buddy snore, slobber, or sweat?  Packing earplugs, a tarp, and a small oscillating fan is not prejudging, people – it’s all about her!

It’s important that you get your attitude in gear for Seminar, and what better way to do that than by telling you – a Mary Kay independent contractor –what kind of friends you should have?  An NSD advises:

“Please remember you have paid a lot of money for this experience. In order to maximize your return remain positive and only hang around excited, positive people.

Does this sound anything like exclusivity, a self-righteous “we” versus “they” attitude found in cults?  Even at Seminar – supposedly the happiest place on the planet – consultants completely into the hype are advised to shun those who are more reluctant.  While I can understand shying away from the consultant who keeps muttering, “I am going to butcher the next painted hussy who talks to me,” I’d like to think that the Go-Give spirit would exercise a bit more understanding than that.  If you know your sister consultants are weary, wouldn’t you do your best to encourage them, not shun them?  Whatever happened to the whole “Maybe she needs me?” mentality used in recruiting – doesn’t it apply to the Pink Sisterhood as well?  Or is that kindness only reserved for those who keep the orders coming?

Who knows what your fellow consultant is going through personally that may have her on edge. But why not help or encourage her, even if she isn’t as excited at Seminar as you are?  While I don’t have a sage “Mary Kay Ash always says…” quote to add here, I’ll encourage you with guidance that carries far more weight: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers [and sisters!] of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV)

Ready for a nap?  You should have done that before you left the house! The NSD says:

“Rest before you go; you don’t get much sleep, plus you’re too excited to rest when you get there.”

I don’t know about you, but sharing a room with three women (who I may or may not know) would be enough to keep me sleeping with one eye open.  Do you think the lack of rest at Seminar falls under the guideline of sensory deprivation? “Fatigue coupled with prolonged activity can make one vulnerable to otherwise offensive beliefs and suggestions,” explains Larson.  Bottom line:  If you’re dog-tired and someone onstage is preaching “Mary Kay is never, EVER to blame!” there’s a chance that you’re going to sleepily raise a hand towards Heaven and mutter “Testify” in the hopes of shutting her up.

If a bit of sensory deprivation wasn’t enough to jimmy your moral door open, the NSD throws this can of kerosene on the fire:

“Classes end at 4:00 PM; must be back at Awards Arena/Hall A at 6:30 PM for Awards Night!  Whatever you do, don’t miss the opening!  Be in your seat no later than 6:30 PM. Eat what you can when you can. (food is not a priority tonight). Plan on a midnight to 1 AM departure from the convention center. TRULY A NIGHT THAT DREAMS ARE BORN!

Oh, dreams are born, all right – dreams of a pallet packed with junk food.  “Depriving one of essential nutrients and enforcing a low protein diet can lead to disorientation and emotional susceptibility,” explains Larson.  An altered diet can make you do all sorts of wacky things.  And speaking of wacky, I just got an idea!  How about having an intermission halfway through the awards presentation where NSDs dress up like castle wenches and serve Seminar attendees a Medieval Times-style banquet?  Hey, if Jesus can wash feet and be cool with it, then surely NSDs can stop teaching the Husband Unawareness Plan long enough to Go-Give me a turkey leg.

Finally, it’s time to head home.  A relaxing airplane ride will give you the chance to catch up on some much-needed rest…or will it?  The NSD wraps things up with this advice:

“Psyche yourself up to meet the real world. Write goals, study notes on plane ride home.”

I have a better suggestion.  Eat two or three times and crash for the remainder of the airplane ride, because if you don’t, your family will unintentionally become the spark that lights your pooped powder keg.  Think about it:  as you stumble through the front door, your husband greets you with a “So, did you learn anything new?”  Next thing you know, you’ve yanked out his entrails and braided them into a ridiculously bulky keychain.  We’ve all been there on some level, especially mothers who can recall the days where they would have traded a few fingers for a 10-minute shower.  So what if I can only count to three on this hand…I don’t smell like milk anymore!

But here’s the jacked-up part:  While your husband is down one lower GI tract, Mary Kay gets off scot-free.  The company doesn’t get one bit of emotional backlash because you faithfully followed your NSD’s instructions to stay happy and positive and only hang around those that are.  It’s a genuis setup, really; consultants pay to stay at Grandma Ash’s house for a few days, get loaded up on sugar, and are subsequently sent back home before they can crash.

Now I realize that many of you are lined up to travel to Dallas and may be bristling at the notion that I would associate Larson’s cult characteristics with that of Seminar, so I’m going to invite you to try something fun. You like fun, right?  Great!  All you have to do is breeze through the article I’ve referenced in the beginning of this piece, jot down the 19 points on an index card, and take it with you.  Once you’re at Seminar, go on a scavenger hunt!  Each time you encounter something on your list, cross it off and write a quick one or two word description of what it was you spied.  Don’t “reach” or try to cram something into a category – just watch.  How many things will your eagle eyes spot?  You’ll never know unless you try!

So come, let us reason together, and have a safe trip there and back again!


  1. OnelessSD

    So brilliant! It brought back scary memories of all my trips to Dallas… the strange bed-buddies, the complete lack of sleep, the crankiness and the complete crash from exhaustion for days after I got home. Seriously… I had serious brain fog for days after Seminar… and I always felt like a loser.. because I wasn’t getting to/through my goals as fast as I wanted to… because I physically couldn’t! I think it was my last year at Seminar as a director… and I had another “driven director” from my area get in my face on the plane home… she wanted to find out what my goals were.. and my plan of action.. I told her to please leave me alone… as I was tired of talking Mary Kay at this point in time… was going to take a nap, and try to rest a bit before seeing my family. I was shutting MK off. You would have thought I had whipped my hand back and slapped her by her expression…. it was amazing. Then she smirked, mumbled something and went to find another director friend to harass about their goals. I put in my ear buds.. turned on some relaxing music and slept.

    1. BestDecision

      It was worst ever. The exhaustion is really bad, and the people dancing the electric slide circa 1995, the ones hyped up over fake jewelry, the standing ovations over and over and over, the nasty smelling restrooms, the processed and dehydrated box lunches and breakfasts, people praying all over the place and acting like you’re below them for not “claiming it” and “taking God as (my) partner”. I felt the same as you!

      1. OnelessSD

        YES! I don’t do well in the heat… (I’m on the plump side of life)… and when you add the heat, the suit, the nylons, the heels and all the makeup.. I was a hot mess. The last couple years of going to seminar… I roomed with just 1 other director… we were good friends.. neither of us had consultants going- so we looked at it more like a vacation… (that you had to dress up for). We slept in on Day 0 (packet pick up day)…. ordered room service for breakfast/lunch and started that day really late. We slept in for class day as well….. because we knew we’d be up really late that night… we got breakfast at the hotel rather than the dining hall, etc. So my final years at seminar I at least ate better, but the exhaustion of just dealing with all the people, the lines, all the hyped up talking, etc… it was so exhausting!

        And the suits this year are just ugly!! such an ugly color on most people… so very glad I’m out!!

        1. MLM Radar

          Today’s forecast high temperature in Dallas is 111. One hundred eleven.

          It doesn’t get much better through the end of Seminar. The lowest daytime high is 100. Cold front that day. But no relief from the rain. The air is too dry to rain.

          Seminar ladies should forget the yogurt cups and load up on Gatorade.

  2. Jamming Berry

    I never went in my few years. UGH! Who wants to sleep in a bed with a stranger, even if she is from your unit? I pretended I was going to go one year and kept asking my SD why I could’t just stay at the neighboring hotel when it was less expensive etc… and her answers were just weird: You can’t get on the bus, you can’t get to the events… whatever. I didn’t go.

    1. BestDecision

      And then you have to be “led” by people like Dacia Wiegandt who spells lobster “lopster”. Her posts show her talking about someone making cheese biscuits like Red Lobster.

      What’s even more horrifying is SHE IS A TRAINED, EDUCATED SCHOOL TEACHER.

      I couldn’t take being around people like that any more. Glad I’m out!

  3. MLM Radar

    About a month ago I traveled to my company’s annual training at the company’s expense, where I slept in the one-to-a-bed hotel room paid for the company. All training was paid for by the company, and 3 fancy buffet meals per day with upscale desserts were also provided at company expense, plus decadent snacks between every class period. There was one night where we were on our own for dinner, for which the company paid us $$ per diem for the inconvenience.

    Our schedule said “classes end at 5:00, followed by a buffet meal in the Comference Hall A-B, and our awards and networking evening. Just show your conference name badge for admission to all meals and events. Don’t forget the free drink tickets you received at check-in; wine and beer will be served at the awards night.”

    Compared to this, MK Seminar is just a bug splat on my windshield.

    1. NeverPink

      Yes! Not a current or former kaybot but had a friend try to recruit me years ago…this site saved my bacon (had heard about MK for YEARS and thought “yeah it’s probably legit”…nope…if only I had the guts to go at her director during the “interview”).

      Company travel at a real j.o.b. = (at minimum) hotel paid, per diem, and paid travel time. You. Should. Not. Lose. Money. Traveling. For. Real. Work.

  4. nopinkplease

    You know, at most people’s J.O.B.s, awards night *is* a dinner, not something you’re supposed to wolf down a granola bar before. But no, god forbid MK Corp. spend any money on their minions.

  5. Still Breaking The Basic

    “…like Dacia Wiegandt who spells lobster ‘lopster’ …”

    Oh no, did IHOP steal IHOb from her?

    “…have an effective ‘thought shift’ …”

    Sounds more like thought $hit in 100 degree heat with 35% humidity.

    1. Char

      Well that made my day. Fingers crossed.

      All they have to do is read PT and they’d have comedic script ideas for a lifetime. So sad that MKbots take themselves seriously.

    2. SW

      But wouldn’t that promote the idea that it’s the fault of people who fell for it, because if they did, they were stupid? They would have to have people making fools of themselves to keep the comedy funny, but aren’t there enough people already who actually believe that? You know the effort that went into articles on this blog to point out there’s more to the problem than that and the role of time-tested manipulation in what looks like sillines from the outside, but may end up being very destructive.

      1. Char

        Of course there is some culpability, but I think there is a difference between doing something stupid – and being stupid. Dismissing the mountain of evidence that MK and all MLMing is a fraud IS stupid denial.

        However, if con men didn’t disguise their game, it wouldn’t be a con. There must be some illusion to convince people. The more complex, the better to dupe you.

        How they do that is explained in this blog.

        Willing victims do stupid things. Scammers just scam. These are the two types in MK.

        Recognizing you “were” an idiot, acknowledging the truth, removing all support including use of product, sparing and educating others, makes one a very knowledgeable and experienced advocate.

        That once “stupid” person is now an expert IMO.

        Poking fun at those “actively” participating in, or supporting a scam is fair game. Maybe it will encourage them to start thinking straight.

        We must not forget that all the silliness doesn’t just affect the person doing it. Their main goal is to recruit others to commit the same act. That is what makes MLMing so destructive – and why it needs to be stopped.

        1. Poking fun at those “actively” participating in, or supporting a scam is fair game. Maybe it will encourage them to start thinking straight.

          Do you understand how mind control works? Did you poke fun at the members of the People’s Temple?

          1. Char

            “Did you poke fun at the members of the People’s Temple?”

            Are you saying the people of Jonestown were convinced to aspire to make personal “executive income” so they could wear fancy dresses, jewelry, and drive nice cars at the expense of their recruited?

Comments are closed.